The administration and Congress put the finishing touches on the monstrous Homeland Security bill last week, creating the first new federal department since the Department of Defense at the end of World War II. Laughably, the new department has been characterized as merely a "reorganization" of existing agencies, even though I notice no department was abolished to make up for it! One thing we can be sure of in this world is that federal agencies grow. The Homeland Security department, like all federal agencies, will increase in size exponentially over the coming decades. Its budget, number of employees, and the scope of its mission will EXPAND. Congress has no idea what it will have created twenty or fifty years hence, when less popular presidents have the full power of a domestic spying agency at their disposal.
The frightening details of the Homeland Security bill, which authorizes an unprecedented level of warrantless spying on American citizens, are still emerging. Those who still care about the Bill of Rights, particularly the 4th amendment, have every reason to be alarmed. But the process by which Congress created the bill is every bit as reprehensible as its contents.
Ironically, many in Congress who usually champion limited government were enthusiastic supporters of the largest federal expansion in 50 years. Twenty years ago President Reagan revitalized conservatives across the country by appealing to their Goldwater roots, promising to slash the size of government and eliminate whole departments. Yet the promise of a smaller government went unfulfilled, and today Congress passes budgets even larger that those of the Clinton years.
Of course the Homeland Security bill did receive some opposition from the President’s critics. Yet did they attack the legislation because it threatens to debase the 4th amendment and create an Orwellian surveillance society? Did they attack it because it will chill political dissent or expand the drug war? No, they attacked it on the grounds that it failed to secure enough high-paying federal union jobs, thus angering one of Washington’s most powerful special interest groups. Ultimately, however, even the most prominent critics voted for the bill.
The lesson learned from the rush to create a Homeland Security department is that the size and scope of government grows regardless of which party is in power. The federal government now devours a whopping 40% of the nation’s GDP, the highest level since World War II and a massive new department can only make things worse. The Homeland Security bill provides a vivid example of the uncontrolled spending culture in Washington, a culture that views the true source of political power your tax dollars as unlimited.